With the cool, crispness of fall in the air, I have been giving my stove and oven a serious workout. Many of my recipes have been reruns of things I’ve already posted, but I have made a few exciting new things, too.
Last week, I opened a can of pureed pumpkin for another recipe (I can’t remember what), and I had just a little bit leftover—at exactly the same time I needed to feed my sourdough starter to make a new loaf of bread for my husband’s lunchtime sandwiches. Why not add the pumpkin to a bread dough? My first inclination was to make a cinnamon roll-type thing, but I remembered how delicious pumpkin is without the spice and sugar, so I took it in this savory direction instead, using my favorite sourdough sandwich bread recipe as a template.
The go-to recipe I modified came from Maurizio Leo, a pro baker whose passion for naturally leavened bread shines on such sites as Food 52 and King Arthur Baking Company. He understands and explains all the science of breadmaking (which I love) and though I keep saying I want to make some of the other Insta-worthy recipes on his blog, The Perfect Loaf, I keep coming back to this one. It relies on an unusual method of pre-cooking a portion of the flour—a technique which locks in much more liquid that you’d otherwise get into a sandwich loaf—and this initial step ensures a super-soft, tender bread with a perfectly chewy edge on every slice.
I’ve experimented many times with Maurizio’s original recipe, first to split it in half because we can’t finish two loaves that quickly, partly out of necessity on days that I didn’t have honey or whole milk, but also out of curiosity to see how far I could push it in the direction of more whole grain. This time, I wanted to see how the loaf would fare with a half cup of fiber-rich pumpkin puree, and as you can see, it turned out quite good.
My big test for any new loaf is toast, and this one was divine!
To make my pumpkin sandwich bread even more rustic and autumn-like, I swapped out a good amount of my usual white whole wheat flour in favor of whole dark rye and played up that rye infusion with a spoonful of caraway seed. I swapped in molasses for honey because I love the deep, earthy flavor of molasses with rye. It all worked beautifully, and the aroma of this loaf as it emerged from the oven was nothing short of fantastic. Sometimes it pays to experiment.
Let’s get baking!
Fair warning, my recipe is written in metric measurement because that’s the way I bake. Scaling a recipe by volume measurements is a near-impossible task, and I will say honestly that my cheap digital kitchen scale is one of the items I would never go without today.
This loaf depends on a portion of ripe sourdough starter. “Ripe” means it has been refreshed within the past 8 to 12 hours, so it is fully fermented, active and ready to use. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you could try a swap-in of canned pumpkin for about half of the water called for in your favorite yeast-based recipe, and then add about 2 tablespoons of extra water. It would be best to experiment with a recipe that you are very familiar with, so you have a better sense of when the dough looks and feels “right.”
Here’s how it went down in my kitchen, beginning with the flour and milk paste, which are whisked together and cooked over medium heat until it looks like a roux. This stage needs constant attention, so don’t look away even for a moment, and be ready to switch from whisk to spoon when it starts to get thickened so you don’t get it all caught up in the whisk.
Next, combine the pumpkin and warm water, whisk in the molasses and olive oil, and then combine it with the sourdough starter and the cooled roux paste in the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the beater blade for this and blend it for several minutes, until it’s smooth and evenly mixed.
Whisk the flours together—here I used a combination of dark rye, white whole wheat and bread flour, which is high in gluten for a strong rise—and stir in the salt and caraway seed. Add a spoonful of these dry ingredients at a time to the mixing bowl while it’s running, until the dough begins to look like batter. Then turn off the mixer and add the rest of the flour ingredients all at once. This is not an essential step for the recipe, but my technique for reducing the splash that usually happens when I start my mixer with wet and dry ingredients in the bowl. I hate the mess, and this really helps!
Continue mixing until all the dry ingredients are completely incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape the dough off the beater blade into the bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for at least 20 minutes, up to an hour. This is a departure from Maurizio’s recipe; it’s my own trick for making the dough more workable, as the rest time gives the grain time to fully hydrate. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead the dough until it’s smooth, soft and shiny. Resist the temptation to add more flour—yes, the dough will seem too soft, but the next step of stretching and folding will increase its strength. Trust the process. Transfer the soft dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover it and stay nearby for the next step.
I was working alone in the kitchen on this day, so the stretch and fold pictures I’m sharing below are borrowed from an earlier post for a different bread (notice the ugly old counters?), but the process is exactly the same. Do this at least twice (three is better), about 30 minutes apart during the first part of the ferment time. This may not seem like much, but this step builds a great deal of strength in the dough so it rises big in the oven.
After about three hours, the dough will be puffy and stretchy. Turn it out onto a lightly floured countertop and gently press and stretch it into a long rectangle. Beginning on the short end nearest you, roll it up tightly into a cylinder shape, tucking in the sides as you go. Pinch the ends of the roll closed and seal the long edge. Place the loaf, seam side-down, into a greased (or non-stick) bread pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place the pan in a draft-free zone in your kitchen—tucked into the microwave is a good bet—until the dough rises to one inch above the rim of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 400° F with rack in center position and another rack in the lowest part of the oven, which you’ll use for a steam pan. Fill a second, shallow baking pan with hot water and place the pan on the lowest rack while the oven preheats.
Bake 22 minutes with steam, then remove the steam pan and rotate the bread to bake more evenly. If the loaf is already brown on top, place a loose foil tent over it to prevent burning. Bake 22 minutes more, until bread is golden brown all over and internal temperature is around 205° F.
Turn the finished bread out onto a cooling rack immediately and cool at least four hours—preferably longer—before cutting into it. That is, if you can stand the wait. 😊
Sourdough Pumpkin Rye Sandwich Loaf
This bread is rich with the rustic flavors of fall, and well worth the wait!
- 148 g whole milk
- 37 g whole dark rye flour
- 106 g sourdough starter, recently refreshed
- 100 g pureed pumpkin (NOT pie filling)
- 85 g filtered water, heated 30 seconds in the microwave
- 18 g unsulphured molasses
- 30 g extra virgin olive oil
- 285 g bread flour
- 60 g white whole wheat flour
- 28 g whole dark rye flour
- 2 tsp. caraway seed (optional)
- 1 1/4 tsp. salt
- Combine milk and first amount of rye flour together in a small saucepan. Whisk them together over medium-low heat until flour is thickened into a paste-like texture. This will take about 10 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
- In a measuring cup with a pour spout, combine pumpkin, water, molasses and oil. Whisk until smooth. Combine this mixture with the sourdough starter and rye-milk paste, using the beater blade, until the mixture is evenly blended.
- Whisk remaining flour ingredients together with salt and caraway seed. Add flour ingredients and continue mixing with beater blade just until the mixture comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Scrape dough from blade, cover the bowl and let it rest at least 20 minutes, up to one hour.
- Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead on medium-low speed for about 8 minutes, until dough is smooth and shiny. Transfer dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover and rest for up to three hours. Perform a few stretch-and-folds during the first hour and a half. These folds will help build strength in the dough.
- When the dough has puffed considerably, shape it into a loaf and place it in a greased pan, seam side down. Cover and let rise for about two hours, until dough has risen about one inch above the rim of the pan.
- During the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 400 F with rack in center position and another rack near the bottom of the oven. Prepare a shallow pan with hot water and place it on the lower shelf during preheating time. This will provide steam for the first half of baking.
- Bake 22 minutes with steam, then carefully remove the steam pan. Rotate the bread pan and cover with a loose foil tent to prevent over browning. Continue to bake 22 more minutes, until bread is deep golden brown and internal temperature is in the 200-205 F range.
- Turn bread out immediately onto a cooling rack and cool completely before wrapping.